Pneumonia

Created: 3.8.2023

Updated: 19.12.2023

Approved by: General Practitioner, Dr Binita Parmar

Pneumonia is an inflammation or infection of the lung tissue. Young children and the elderly are most often affected, and most often in the winter. The severity varies greatly from a mild cold to the need for hospitalisation.

Causes

Pneumonia can be caused by:

  • Bacteria (most commonly Pneumococci or Haemophilus influenzae)
  • Virus
  • Fungi or parasites (these are very rare).
  • Medications can also cause inflammation of the lung tissue.
  • Water or food getting into the lungs can also cause inflammation (aspiration pneumonia).

Symptoms

The symptoms can vary from person to person, but you may experience:

  • Cough with mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever (you can also have pneumonia without fever)
  • Chest pain or body ache
  • Generally feeling tired, having a loss of energy or loss of appetite
  • Confusion (common in older people)

Risk factors

Some groups are more prone than others to getting pneumonia, and factors that increase the risk of an infection are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Difficulty coughing
  • Inflammation/infection of the upper respiratory tract
  • Sinusitis
  • Other lung diseases

Types of pneumonia

“Typical” pneumonia

Typical pneumonia is an infection with pneumococcal bacteria and gives typical symptoms of pneumonia such as cough, fever, shortness of breath and general malaise. Pneumococcal pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. There is a vaccine against this infection, which is recommended for those over 65 and those who are seriously or chronically ill. The vaccine is reserved for these groups.

"Atypical" pneumonia

Atypical pneumonia, also called "silent pneumonia" or "pneumonia without fever". This is an infection with the lung bacterium mycoplasma or chlamydia and often gives slightly different symptoms that develop more slowly than with 'typical' pneumonia. The symptoms usually creep in over several days, and you are often bothered by headaches, sore throats, prolonged cough, low fever and general malaise.

Examination

The doctor who examines you will measure your temperature, how fast you breathe, and listen over your lungs to hear if there are any "crackling sounds", which are typical of pneumonia. The doctor will also measure how well your body absorbs oxygen via a small clamp on a finger.

If there is a suspicion of another lung disease or other conditions, it may be relevant to refer for an X-ray to have a picture taken or blood tests.

Treatment

Most can be treated at home, only those who are very ill need to be admitted to a hospital for treatment. If the doctor suspects that bacteria is the cause of your infection, you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

If a virus is suspected, there are no antibiotics for this, but symptomatic relief is in the form of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (if no contraindications) for fever and pain. Over the counter medication such as cough syrup and throat lozenges can be used if you are bothered a lot by your symptoms.

FAQs about pneumonia

Is pneumonia dangerous?

In most people, patients make a good recovery, but in certain patient groups such as those with lung disease or the elderly they can be more prone to serious illness. If you are admitted for treatment in the hospital there is a good prognosis for treatment in the hospitals.

Is there a vaccine against pneumonia?

Yes, there is a vaccine which protects against bacterial infections that can cause pneumonia. The vaccine is part of the childhood vaccination programme and there is also a vaccine reserved for those with weakened immune systems and those over 65 years of age.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia is contagious and spreads via droplets. If one person is ill and coughs out saliva particles that another breathes in, the other person can become infected. This applies to all respiratory infections.

What can I do to prevent pneumonia?

It is important to have good hand hygiene to avoid getting infected, as well as to avoid touching the face. Avoid smoking as this increases the risk of infection and increases the risk of a more complicated and serious course of the disease.

How Dr.Dropin can help you

If you feel unwell over several days with fever, cough, body aches, headaches, etc., then it is wise to be assessed by a qualified health care professional. Most respiratory infections are caused by viruses and go away on their own, but if you have bacterial pneumonia, a course of antibiotics will be needed. The GPs at Dr. Dropin have good experience with respiratory infections and will be able to assess you to determine whether you are likely to have pneumonia and if you require antibiotics.

FAQs about pneumonia

Is pneumonia dangerous?

In most people, pneumonia goes very well, but if you are e.g. lung disease from before, one is more prone to serious illness. If you get very bad from pneumonia, you are admitted to a hospital for treatment, and in Norway, there are good prognoses for treatment in hospitals.

Is there a vaccine against pneumonia?

Yes, there is a vaccine against the H. influenza bacterium. The vaccine is part of the childhood vaccination program. There is also a vaccine against the lung bacterium pneumococcus, but since most people tolerate infection with this bacterium well, the vaccine is reserved for those with weakened immune systems and those over 65 years of age.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia is contagious and spreads via droplets. If one person is ill and coughs out saliva particles that another breathes in, the other person can become infected. This applies to all respiratory infections.

What can I do to prevent pneumonia?

It is important to have good hand hygiene to avoid getting infected, as well as to avoid touching the face. Avoid smoking as this increases the risk of infection and increases the risk of a more complicated and serious course of the disease.

Doctor

How Dr.Dropin can help you

If you feel unwell over several days with fever, cough, body aches, headaches, etc., then it is wise to take a check. Most respiratory infections are caused by viruses and go away on their own, but if you have bacterial pneumonia, a course of antibiotics will be needed. The GPs at Dr. Dropin have good experience with respiratory infections and will be able to take the tests and samples needed to find out if you have pneumonia and if you need antibiotics.

General Practitioner

At Dr.Dropin our experienced GPs provide a wide range of primary care services, similar to those provided by the NHS, either in the clinic or through video consultations.

Dermatologist

At Dr.Dropin, you will receive specialist care from our expert Consultant Dermatologists provided by skindoc. With extensive experience from both public and private hospitals, we can assess and treat most chronic and acute skin disorders – either in the clinic, through video, or via a photo upload service.